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jrpigman
Hey all. I'm fairly new to Shadowrun, though the system seems awesome, but I'm not quite sure I understand some of the finer distinctions between types of mages. Maybe you can give me advice.

I'm playing a 3rd ed campaign with a 5 man party - couple street sams, a decker/rigger, and a face. As I have never had the opportunity, I have been delegated the task of being the mage. I'm pretty clear on the rules, and I've asked some of the guys I know about good builds, but some of the defining semantics between magic disciplines elude me. For example, what's the benefit of being a hermetic? Aside from the ability to summon up and wait out the drain. How about Shamans? Wuxing? Voodoo? The Wheel? I can read rules all day long, but how said characters functionally play is not something I can nessecerily predict.

In short, I'd like advice and experientially based stories about how different magic traditions actually play out in role playing. Any neat builds you're aware of would be interesting too.
eidolon
Heya, welcome to Dumpshock.

A lot of "how they play out" is in the flavor of each tradition. I'm guessing that you have access to Magic in the Shadows? It does a pretty good job of giving some background on playing the various magical traditions.

Also, in my experience, a lot of how a particular tradition gets played out is grounded in that player's or that groups collective ideas about that particular tradition. What I mean is that Voodoo, regardless of the information in the books, gets played out more in accordance with what that player thinks and knows about Voodoo.
Dawnshadow
Hermetics have more in common with rationality then intuition. It's measured, quantified. It's their Skill

Shamans are more intuitive. It's not measured, weighted, it's their Art.
Tanegar
Wait, new traditions? Damn, I need to lay my hands on a copy of SR3 or 4. I only knew about shamans and mages. frown.gif
MYST1C
QUOTE (Tanegar)
Wait, new traditions?  Damn, I need to lay my hands on a copy of SR3 or 4.  I only knew about shamans and mages.  frown.gif

SR2 already had druids and voodoo priests. Check Grimoire and Awakenings.
Trax
Also, a big different between hermetics and shamans is that hermetics can only summon elementals using a summoning circle, which is back at their home and costs conjuring materials. A Shaman can only call up spirits, but it can do it at any time without needing materials.
Kagetenshi
Shamans and mages are the True Path. Other traditions are lies spread by forked tongues.

~J
SL James
QUOTE (Kagetenshi)
Shamans and mages are the True Path. Other traditions are lies spread by forked tongues.

Seconded.
hyzmarca
Shaman: Imagine that you're walking in the woods one day and a large talking bear comes up to you, tells you that you have magical powers, and then proceeds to teach you how to use your magical powers. Then you wake up; it was all a dream. But wait! everything that the large talking bear taught you actually works! Maybe is wasn't just a dream.
(One may substitute Shark, Whale, Dog, Wold, Spider, Mantis, Fly, Mother Earth, Bacchus, Thor, Fenrir, Gargoyle, The King of Hell, or any other Totem or Idol/God for Bear and any other dream setting for the woods)

Hermetic: You took Magic 101 in highschool and you actually paid attention. You got decent SAT scores, went to a nice community college, and earned a Bachelor's degree in Thaumaturgy. (One may substitute "The School of Hard Knox", a Homeless Street Tutor, or any equivalents educational method for school.

Voodoo: Its your religion, dammit. You

Religious Druid: Its your religion, dammit. But your really hermetic.

Theurgy: See religious Druid.

Nonreligious Druid:Hermeticism, basically.

Wuxing: An amalgamation of Asian magical folklore. It is more like the Asian version of hermeticism than the Asian version of Shamanism but it isn't as popular as the first two for some reason (with the majority of people in the world being Asian you'd think that it would be more popular).
Being Asian automatically makes it better.

Path of the Wheel: Stuck up snooty immortal elves trying to reinvent Earthdawn disciplines, and stuck up, snooty, ignorant mortal elves actually lisitening to them, is all.
Tanegar
QUOTE (M$T1C)
SR2 already had druids and voodoo priests. Check Grimoire and Awakenings.

Thanks, M$T1C. I'll see if I can find copies of those books, too.
SL James
QUOTE (M$T1C)
QUOTE (Tanegar)
Wait, new traditions?  Damn, I need to lay my hands on a copy of SR3 or 4.  I only knew about shamans and mages.  frown.gif

SR2 already had druids and voodoo priests. Check Grimoire and Awakenings.

Druids also first appeared in London (post-1st ed Grimoire, but in the 2nd ed Grimoire), and Idol worshippers were introduced in Germany because, well, the Germans seemed to want to have their own version of everything: Magic, Megas, the Tir...
Apathy
[disclaimer]It's been a while since I've done SR3, so somebody please correct me if I mis-state something.[/disclaimer]

Everybody's already addressed the role-play, art-vs-science distinctions between mages and shamans. As far as practical distinctions, the most important difference is in what they can do with what they summon (mages have elementals, and shamans have spirits):
  • Because mage summoning materials cost money, it's usually cheaper to play a shaman. This shouldn't be that big a deal, since mages are generally cheaper to play than any of the other archetypes anyway.
  • Mages can/must summon their elementals ahead of time. This means that they have to plan ahead more, because if they don't have an air elemental on call, and suddenly desperately need one because they're falling off the roof, they're just out of luck. The flip side of this is that they can prepare beforehand, and aren't subject to summoning drain in the middle of combat.
  • Mages can have up to their Charisma in spirits at one time. Shamans are limited [at least until after they initiate and get invoking] to one spirit per domain. There are some work-arounds for this, but those tend to get complicated.
  • Shamanic spirits can't cross domains, and pop like a soap bubble as soon as you leave the domain (unless they're on remote service). So if you're in a firefight in the street, and summon a city spirit to help you, it can't leave the street and follow the bad guys into a building (hearth domain), and you can't conjure a new hearth spirit to pursue the bad guys until you cross the doorway into the building. Elementals aren't subject to domain restrictions.
  • Elementals can help the mage sustain spells - spirits can't do that for shamans.
  • Elementals can kick more ass in physical combat.
  • Spirits have more versital powers, that are often difficult to replicate using spellcasting (Conceal and Confusion)
Smed
QUOTE (Apathy)
[disclaimer]It's been a while since I've done SR3, so somebody please correct me if I mis-state something.[/disclaimer]

Everybody's already addressed the role-play, art-vs-science distinctions between mages and shamans. As far as practical distinctions, the most important difference is in what they can do with what they summon (mages have elementals, and shamans have spirits):
  • Because mage summoning materials cost money, it's usually cheaper to play a shaman. This shouldn't be that big a deal, since mages are generally cheaper to play than any of the other archetypes anyway.
  • Mages can/must summon their elementals ahead of time. This means that they have to plan ahead more, because if they don't have an air elemental on call, and suddenly desperately need one because they're falling off the roof, they're just out of luck. The flip side of this is that they can prepare beforehand, and aren't subject to summoning drain in the middle of combat.
  • Mages can have up to their Charisma in spirits at one time. Shamans are limited [at least until after they initiate and get invoking] to one spirit per domain. There are some work-arounds for this, but those tend to get complicated.
  • Shamanic spirits can't cross domains, and pop like a soap bubble as soon as you leave the domain (unless they're on remote service). So if you're in a firefight in the street, and summon a city spirit to help you, it can't leave the street and follow the bad guys into a building (hearth domain), and you can't conjure a new hearth spirit to pursue the bad guys until you cross the doorway into the building. Elementals aren't subject to domain restrictions.
  • Elementals can help the mage sustain spells - spirits can't do that for shamans.
  • Elementals can kick more ass in physical combat.
  • Spirits have more versital powers, that are often difficult to replicate using spellcasting (Conceal and Confusion)

I'd agree with that. I'd only add that Watcher Spirits can help each tradtion get around the limitations of the spirit types they can conjure. They aren't much good for fighting, but they allow Hermetics to conjure spirits without spending money, and they allow Shamans to have spirits that cross domain lines.
John Campbell
Spirits are time-limited, too. At sunrise or sunset, they go poof.

I generally find that, because shamanic summoning is quick and cheap, shamans are willing to call up spirits at the drop of a hat, where the hermetics, with their expensive, prepared-in-advance summoning, save their elementals for when they really need them. But when they need them, if they've made the preparations, they can call up a small army of powerful, versatile elementals, where the shaman can only get one, generally weaker and limited spirit.
tisoz
Hermetics need a seperate library for each type of skill they use. Summoning - need a conjuring library with a rating at least as high as the force of the conjured spirit. Learning a spell? Need a Sorcery Library rated as high as Force of spell trying to learn. Enchanting? Need an enchanting library.

Hermetics also need conjuring circles or magic circles to work in which require time to create and room to reside in. Hermetics require conjuring materials that can get expensive.

Shaman basically need a lodge, which is relatively inexpensive, but takes time and space to create. When a shaman gets invoking, they can start summoning at sunrise/sunset and pre-conjure a little bit like a hermetic, able to better manage drain outside the run.
Glyph
Hermetics
Pro:
>They don't need to follow a certain philosophy or worry about offending their Totem.
>They don't need to need to negotiate with or cajole their spirits, just give them orders.
>They have no shamanic mask, so their magic is harder to notice.
>They can sumon on their downtime.
>Elementals are good muscle, and can also aid magical tasks or sustain spells for you.
>Magic in the Shadows has rules for elemental mages, which give you the equivalent of Totem bonuses.

Con:
>They require much more in the way of resources, from libraries and magical circles to summoning materials
>Conjuring costs them, and they can't summon spirits on the fly (except watcher spirits)


Shamans
Pro:
>With so many Totems to choose from, you can pick one that fits your character relatively easily.
>They can summon spirits on the fly.
>With less resources needed (only a shamanic lodge), you have more build points for higher Attributes or more skills.
>Shamanic spirits have a wider variety of powers that can be used on the summoner's behalf, such as Concealment.
>They get Totem bonuses. Mages have elemental mages, but some Totems give you really good advantages and comparatively minor disadvantages.

Con:
>They have to worry about the ideals of their Totem, and treat spirits as allies rather than servants.
>Summoning on the fly means taking Drain on the fly.
>They can only have one spirit at a time, and nature spirits tend to not be as good in combat as elementals.
>Their lodge needs to be in an environment suited for their Totem, such as a rooftop for Raven, etc.
>Their magic is more noticable due to their shamanic mask.
jrpigman
Wow, thanks for the feedback! Theres a bunch of really good information in here.

Since I've played the equivalent of a hermetic in a couple different systems (specifically, I played one recently), I decided to go the cheap and easy route. I was going to roll up a shaman, but another buddy showed up for character creation at the last second wanting to make a Houngan, and with the ritual/magic group/contact bonuses involved in having mages of the same discipline, I decided to go that route. The only problem I've been having is on a 10 point priority chart, it's awfully hard to create a character that doesn't stand a good chance of getting creamed on the first run.

My reaction started really low (at a 4, if I recall) so I took a spell locked +3D6 intitaive spell. With 5 body, 4 reaction+3D6 initiative, and 9/7 armor, should I be able to make a few runs until I have the Karma/Resources to properly secure myself? Or should I go back to the priority chart and take fewer skills and more resources?

Some misc Voodoo related questions: Is zombie powder worth it? Seems awfully dangerous if you don't use it right. Similarly, hordes of zombies seem pretty gimped in shadowrun up against cybered up street sams. In your experience, how does playing a character possesed by a Loa play out? If I have to deal with a prepared hermetic, what is the easiest way to deal with the inevitable elementals, aside from straight willpower?

How about forming a magical group? Karma wise, if we have 2 people (maybe we can wrangle a 3rd npc Houngan) does it make more sense to initiate, then start the group, or vice versa? The tradition of Voodoo seems obsessed with fetishes; I can wrap it into role playing, but how hard is it to hang on to a fetish? If I lose that specific fetish, can I get a new one to do what the last one did?

Again, thanks for all the advice. I'm learning a lot in here.
Kagetenshi
I advise against making another Houngan. They've got some significant limitations, and a different sort of magicuser would help shore up those weak spots. With two Houngans (Houngan?), you've just got two people who become tanks if they give up their personality temporarily.

As for a hermetic, high Willpower and Charisma plus an extendable staff.

~J
jrpigman
QUOTE (Kagetenshi)
With two Houngans (Houngan?), you've just got two people who become tanks if they give up their personality temporarily.

One of us was going to do astral recon with a loa, the other would provide combat backup, healing and intel. We know a serviteur, so the combat guy can bring a possesed buddy, and still blow stuff up.

The thing I liked about a houngan as opposed to a shaman was the myriad of doimains possible to summon loa in. Serving Legba, I get +2 dice to brining in a loa anywhere two roads meet. This is pretty much a city campaign, so nature spirits seem kinda limited.

Like I said before, I'm not super interested in playing a hermetic this time around, mainly because I was one in my last campaign , though not in the Shadowrun system. I played with the idea of a wujen, as they are a nice happy medium and if you take invoking you can get some badass material free elemental-like spirits, with a fairly free domain. Or a shaman, I could dig on a shaman. What do you think? Is two Houngan really overkill?
Angelone
Do you have your heart set on playing a caster? If not Pysads are fun and get nifty tricks. They can do all types of Wire-fu stuff.

EDIT- As you don't want to be a hermetic, try a Idol worshipper, I like them better than shaman personally because they follow a consept instead of a totem.
Dog
Mages=nerds.
Shamans=hippies.
jrpigman
Actually, I wanted to play a Physad, but got relegated to casting because you need a mage, and everyone had already called dibs on everything else. Another guy showed up for character creation and made a mage as well, which sorta frees me up, except he'll probably only play every other session, which leaves me still holding the bag on actaul casting. As much as I'd like to break away from doing magic for a game or three, I'm stuck with it for the moment.

I will look in to Idol worshipper, though.
tisoz
If you are planning on joining or forming a group, wait to initiate and get the karma cost reduction for belonging to a group. The worst that happens is it takes a while to form the group. Meanwhile, you are accumulating karma and can initiate a couple of times or initiate with the ally deed.
Elfwitch
QUOTE (jrpigman)
Actually, I wanted to play a Physad, but got relegated to casting because you need a mage, and everyone had already called dibs on everything else. Another guy showed up for character creation and made a mage as well, which sorta frees me up, except he'll probably only play every other session, which leaves me still holding the bag on actaul casting. As much as I'd like to break away from doing magic for a game or three, I'm stuck with it for the moment.

I will look in to Idol worshipper, though.

I disagree with the statement that you need anything. I am a great believer in playing what sounds the most fun.

Our original team consited of a decker/security expert , street sam , hermetic mage, and a sun shaman

It now consits of two street sams, mage, shaman and a wuxun we hire a rigger and decker when we need one.

Play the physad if that is what you really want and hire magical support if you really need it for a run.
child of insanity
and you could always play a path of the magician adept. some drawbacks (you don't get astral perception except as a phyad power as well as you need to take astral projection as a metamagic technique) but quite a few benefits, especially if you have some money for stuff like power foci to make up for the lower force you have to spellcast.
MYST1C
QUOTE (SL James)
Idol worshippers were introduced in Germany because, well, the Germans seemed to want to have their own version of everything: Magic, Megas, the Tir...

The reasoning was that American-style shamanism with animal totems simply wasn't fitting the German setting and history so they introduced anthropomorphic totems (aka idols) modeled after gods of old.
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